I recently finished the book “Eating Animals,” by Johnathan Safran Foer. Before I go any further I’d like to state for the record that I am not a vegetarian. I approached this book as someone who eats meat and enjoys eating meat. After finishing reading it, I would say that I’m not convinced enough by the arguments of the author to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, but will certainly give thought to reducing the amount of meat that is part of my diet.
While I liked the general tenor of the book, I found its overall structure rather disjointed and hared to follow. I think the reason for this is that Foer tries to do too much with the book and ends up not doing enough. This stems in large part from Foer’s desire to be as accommodating as possible to his carnivorously inclined readers.
Another contributing factor to this is Foer’s bringing in to the book elements of the origins of our meat eating habits. These to me, are the weakest part of the book for he fails to address these questions in any depth. He often introduces one of these subjects only to almost immediately veer off into another discussion on factory farming and meat production. More detail on the cultural aspects of our meat eating habits would be very welcome. As well a more structured look at the relationships between us and the animals we eat would make the book better.
To his credit Foer is very sensitive to the people that he meets along the way, whether they be part of the factory farm, food producing movement, adamantly opposed to it, or caught somewhere in-between. The stories these individuals tell enable the reader to get a real strong sense of the many nuances that are involved in the production and consumption of meat products.
When I speak of nuance, I am referring to the raising and slaughtering of meat that is done outside of the factory farm process. There is no nuance within that world. If there is one thing Foer’s book makes clear time and time again, it is that our current way of mass-producing meat for consumer consumption is barbaric to the nth degree. It is not only barbaric in the way that the animals are treated in the slaughter process, but also in the way it affects the mental state of those who are involved in the production of the meat.
So now the hard part, change. There is no doubt that Foer is right when he says that the only reason we don’t eat less meat is that we are unwilling to. Yet, I love eating meat, especially when I can get it cheap. Nonetheless, I think that over the next couple of months I’m going to try and make an effort to add at least a couple of meatless days to my eating habits. It’s only a small start, but if we multiplied small starts by hundreds of millions of people, maybe we could bring our meat eating habits under control a little, and help remove a little cruelty out of our world. Perhaps I even need to include Boon Burger as a destination when I go out to eat. I’ve been there once and it was terrific.
For another perspective on eating meat or not, check out Michael Gilmour’s article at the Huffington Post.